Orioles use power, small ball to rally past Rangers

Flaherty's go-ahead, seventh-inning homer caps comeback

Orioles use power, small ball to rally past Rangers

BALTIMORE -- The ideal makeup of a Major League offense is obvious enough: It isn't ideal to be overly reliant on one attribute. The best teams can hit for power, use their speed, hit for contact, move runners over and manufacture runs. That sort of team, of course, is impossible to field. Not even the 1927 Yankees had that, Buck Showalter said.

But teams can be multi-dimensional and, on Wednesday, the Orioles had to be more than just home run hitters to overcome a four-run deficit and beat the Rangers 6-4. The O's (45-39) scored twice on home runs. They scored on a single by power hitter Nelson Cruz. And they scored another run on a single that barely squeaked through the infield. The Orioles needed all those different sources of offense to complete their comeback.

"There's so many things you've got to do to set up those innings," Showalter said.

Adam Jones had already cut Texas' lead to three with a homer in the fourth inning, but the sixth frame was when the O's staged their rally.

Outfielders Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce drew a pair of one-out walks to knock Rangers starter Miles Mikolas out of the game. After a wild pitch by Texas relief pitcher Jason Frasor, Jones drove in his second run of the game with a sacrifice fly to right field.

That brought Cruz to the plate. Earlier in the game, he narrowly missed out on taking the Major League-lead in home runs when Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin robbed him of his 27th in center field.

The outfielders were good friends as Rangers teammates and by the end of the game, Cruz had already texted him about the play.

"I told him congrats on the good catch," Cruz said. "Hopefully he can enjoy it for a while."

In the sixth, Cruz got his revenge. The MVP candidate turned on a pitch and drove it off the left-field wall for a long single, another run and his 68th RBI of the year.

After struggling slugger Chris Davis drew an eight-pitch walk with 13,478 fans trying to will him to a hit at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, J.J. Hardy grounded a dribbler up the middle that bounced off shortstop Elvis Andrus' glove as he dove toward second base. Cruz came home from second and tied the game.

Playing without All-Star third baseman Manny Machado for the third consecutive game, the O's won their third in a row and stayed a game back of the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East.

"The whole group, I was real proud of them tonight," Showalter said.

Ultimately, though, it all came back to the home runs -- even if it came from the most unlikely of sources. Leading off the seventh inning, utility man Ryan Flaherty belted a towering home run to right field off relief pitcher Neal Cotts (2-5) to give Baltimore its first lead of the game.

The O's have homered in a season-high 12 straight games. They have hit multiple home runs in 25 of 42 games.

"We talk about picking up the slack and Ryan was big for us tonight in a lot of ways," Showalter said of his temporary third baseman. "Has been the last couple nights and will be again tomorrow night."

The O's stingy bullpen did the rest. Brad Brach (2-0) picked up the win after 1 1/3 innings and a pair of strikeouts.

Eventually Zach Britton would get the call for the ninth and convert his 11th save of the year, but not until after an hour and 38 minute rain delay. For the entirety of the wait, the relief pitcher sat in the bullpen with Dom Chiti. Britton and the bullpen coach chatted about everything from Chiti's playing days to plans for the offseason.

"We're keeping it loose, but at the same time he makes sure you're good and ready to go," Britton said. "And once we saw them moving the tarp he was like, 'It's game time. Get ready to go.'"

Nine minutes and two Britton strikeouts later, the closer shut the door just before the clock struck midnight and gave the Orioles a chance to sweep the Rangers (37-47) on Thursday.

"That was really impressive," Showalter said. "That was one of the more impressive things I've seen, to be able to bring that intensity into a game like that."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.